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Research Suggests How Environmental Toxin Produced by Algae May Lead to ALS


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A model of the protein copper-zinc superoxide dismutase, with the toxin ?-Methylamino-L-alanine incorporated into its structure.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University used a digital simulation to explore how a toxin generated by saltwater algae might cause Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Credit: Elizabeth Proctor

Pennsylvania State University researchers used a digital simulation to explore how a toxin generated by saltwater algae might cause Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Cyanobacteria-produced ß-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) has been associated with greater occurrence of sporadic ALS among populations that consume food with high BMAA concentrations.

The study tested the theory that BMAA causes the copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD1) protein to fold into a configuration that is toxic to neurons.

The team used computer modeling to simulate SOD1's appearance with BMAA substituted for the amino acid L-serine in 10 occurrences, and noticed that this adversely affected protein structure and stability, and induced misconfiguration.

The researchers suggested potential intervention strategies for sporadic ALS could be developed by studying patterns of SOD1 modifications in patients.

From Penn State News
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


 

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